College Football and Relaxation

This weekend began the great tradition in our house that is College Football.

To start with — it’s Sarah’s fault. No, really, it is. She was born an Ohio State fan, I think. Her first words might have been “buckeye” and “Brutus.” She breathes and bleeds OSU football.

For me, I didn’t care about football at all until I met her. I was always a hockey girl (see previous entries about my poor Buffalo Sabres). But befriending Sarah meant either watching games with her on Saturdays, or not seeing her at all. So I started watching. And just…got absorbed. That was more than 15 years ago. Now, we have a whole ritual devoted to the watching of college football.

First, there is special food. Every week we do something different, either fancy cheese or popcorn or pizza or donuts or whatever we feel like.

Second, Saturdays during college football season are sacrosanct. Only for a few very specific people or causes will we rouse ourselves from our couch of blankets, pillows, snacks, and stats. Where we started just watching the Ohio State game, now we watch them all, from 11am until 1-2am, and also the Friday night before. The OSU game is the centerpiece, of course, not to be missed on pain of much sorrow, but we like the other games, too. We have certain teams we always cheer for, and some we always boo. When in doubt, we cheer for underdogs, the more under, the better.

Third, there’s a whole set of superstitions Sarah has to which we both hold. Neither of us is allowed to wear the colors of the team playing OSU for the day, no matter what. Nobody is allowed to watch the games with us if they have proven to be unlucky in the past (and Sarah decides when someone whose presence ’caused’ a game to go poorly gets to come back; sometimes the prohibition lasts for years). The OSU flag must be hung proudly on our house before kickoff. We must have a Twitter feed open to read all the commentary and jokes from the OSU community. Sarah will pick a lucky beverage and drink only that during every OSU game for the season. I am allowed to choose one blanket and can’t switch later — unless that blanket is the color of the opposing team and then I’m allowed a substitute for just that game.

It’s hard to explain what those Saturdays are like, though. We sit on the couch under our blankets and our cats, surrounded by our snacks. We flip between games, sometimes 3 or more depending on what’s on and what’s good. We snark at the announcers, track when horribly one-sided games go off the rails and the play-callers have to swap to talking about grass or the local diner where they had dinner because the game is too awful to mention. We don’t look at email. We don’t answer phones. We don’t leave the house. We just nestle down into this zone where we are alone and we are in our element and it doesn’t matter if I’m not wearing pants as long as I’m wearing the right shirt, and it doesn’t matter who had what kind of week because it’s college football Saturday and that is our respite. It’s like a tiny vacation every Saturday for 10 weeks.

And it began this past weekend.

And ye gods did I need it.

I’m not always good at spotting the signs of becoming overwhelmed in myself, especially early, because powering through stuff is what I do. I don’t always notice that I’m stressed, or that the stress is lasting for more than a day at a time.

But when I start to slide down the slope from ‘stress’ to ‘burnout,’ then I tend to notice.

So I took this weekend of football, with an extra day off, and I just…reminded myself to breathe. I meditated. I slept whenever I felt like it and didn’t when I didn’t want to. I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t bother with thinking about calories or health benefits. I read whatever made me giggle. When there was no college football, Sarah joined me as we continued our marathon of NCIS:LA. Or movies. We watched several movies; it’s hard to count them up because we flipped between them and football or science shows. So we watched parts of lots of movies and just a few all the way through.

I ALSO managed to hurt myself on Friday doing the daily workout with Sarah, so I was a lot less mobile than usual. Funny thing — going from doing zero squats with weights to forty squats with weights, plus 60 ab/quad exercises, plus the usual, means the thighs were NOT HAPPY. There was much hobbling around and making of sad sounds when going up stairs.

And in the end, I don’t think I remember many specific moments or particular plays in various games or even really good lines and snark and jokes we invented. I don’t think I can point to one thing and say that this moment or that moment fixed things.

But I let myself rest, did what I call letting “my soul sleep.” I let the world go away for a while, and I let myself not think about it for a while. I turned off the sharpest functions of my brain, let my heart have a break. Like putting your personality into sleep mode, maybe — it was there, but in the background.

And it helped.

And OSU won, which also helped.

(Sarah is actually less cranky when the team loses than I am. I’m a terrible loser.)

So now I find myself facing the oncoming fall with much more clarity, much more ease in my chest and much less tension in my lungs. And for the next 9 weeks, I’ll have that moment for one day again, every Saturday that Sarah and I settle in for our college football day. It’s not productive use of time in the traditional sense, but it sure as hell allows me to be more productive afterwards.

And given how fall works? I’m gonna need it. Choir starts up again this week, and the planning for CVG 2019 will ramp up all over again before the end of the month, so we get CONvergence and football and choir all at the same time. The summer break, such as it was, is ending.

In the pagan calendar, the fall equinox is the celebration of Mabon — the harvest. The idea is to appreciate all the work that has come before, to set aside that which you have stored up all summer for the coming winter months, to be thankful for all that has carried you this far. It’s kinda pagan Thanksgiving, if you will.

For me, the coming of autumn is the close of the year and the start of a new one. Not a school year, but the choir year, the CONvergence year. And the end of October will be the close of my writing year as well. This is the golden season of endings and beginnings, when all the hard work of before is starting to pay off and plans are being made for the winter to come.

So it’s a perfect time for a weekly escape, to recharge, reflect, and take the time to set my feet firmly before I take the next steps.

15 years ago, I never would have believed that I could get so much out of watching college football with Sarah. I could easily believe I’d still be doing it, because she would be, and where Sarah goes I’ll always be. But I would have believed I’d be there for her, not getting anything from it myself.

I’m delighted to have been wrong.

Welcome to September, all.

And, just because it’s my blog, dammit, and I can do this:

O — H!


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